Vail Pass proposed fee increase open to public comment with Forest Service
SILVERTHORNE — The U.S. Forest Service is asking for public input on a proposal to increase recreation fees at the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area to continue to provide essential operational services and sustain the recreation opportunities at the area.
The Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, located on the White River National Forest, is a high-alpine recreation destination that provides snowmobiling and backcountry skiing access. The area is managed by the Forest Service in partnership with the Vail Pass Task Force, a non-profit partner. The proposal would raise the current individual day pass fee from $6 to $10 and the season pass fee from $40 to $65.
Recreation fees fund essential operational services including grooming and maintenance of 67 miles of motorized/mixed-use trails and 52 miles of non-motorized trails, consistent plowing of five parking areas to maintain adequate vehicle and equipment access, staffing, and visitor information services.
Fees have not changed since 2005, while visitation has nearly doubled from 16,726 visitors in 2002-2003 to over 32,000 visitors last season. As visitation and operating costs continue to increase, expenditures have surpassed revenue; next year the area is projected to be operating at a $60,000 deficit. Without a fee increase, the ability to provide and sustain operational services in the future is at risk.
“Locals and travelers alike visit this area to connect with nature, get outside with friends and family, and have an amazing winter experience in the backcountry,” said Bill Jackson, Dillon District Ranger. “We need to continue to invest in the experiences and places that keep people connected to the outdoors and connected to each other.”
Operational services funded by recreation fees contribute to providing access to six backcountry huts, along with providing opportunity for guided visitor experiences.
If a fee increase is imposed, additional and improved services including improved parking lot plowing, more frequent and consistent trail grooming, automated fee stations that accept credit cards and increased ranger presence and information services.
For more information or to comment, go to the project web page. Comments will be accepted through April 14, the close of this operating season at the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area.
Comment cards are available at all fee station locations and may be taken to the Dillon and Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger stations or dropped into fee tubes at any Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area fee site. Project documents will be available for viewing at both office locations. Rangers will also be distributing information throughout the winter operating season at the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area. For more information, call 970-468-5400.